Traveling Lewis & Clark Trunk Stops at Bernice Vossbeck

As the fourth-grade students at Bernice Vossbeck Elementary School dig into Washington state history, a traveling trunk of Lewis and Clark resources has given the students plenty to explore. 

Teachers Kim Assink and Deanne Bowen have taken the trunk on loan from the Lewis and Clark National Park in Astoria, Oregon, a treasure trove full of picture books, magazines, lesson plans and a complete collection of Lewis and Clark’s journal entries and various artifacts. 

“The students have an opportunity to view the expedition from many different perspectives,” Assink says. “We are hoping that they learn that history can be exciting and through this experience we are able to bring it to life.” 

The teachers have aligned the project with a social studies unit and are using the expedition’s history to discuss the expansion of the United States and serve as a guide for asking: “How did the expedition influence Washington state history?”

Students engage in a project that includes research and learning about the expedition from a variety of angles. They then create a timeline of events and have an opportunity to analyze artifacts and primary documents connected to the expedition. Artifacts include clothing, trade goods, candle molds, flint, primary source documents and a Jefferson Peace Medal. 

Before the pandemic hit, the teachers introduced the artifacts to students by setting up a mini museum in the library. Students rotated through various sections to analyze the artifacts, all while time period fiddle music played in the background. In addition to the museum, students rotated to four different stations where teachers presented a lesson on a specific artifact. By the end of the rotation, students had in-depth knowledge and a chance to interact with multiple artifacts, asking questions along the way. Assink says the teachers hope to return to that format again next school year as it benefits the students to work with different teaching styles and the teachers enjoy engaging with all the students. 

Already the students have showcased a tendency for great discussion and have enjoyed the experience. “We believe that through this unit the students develop an understanding of the challenges faced by the expedition and how different life was back then,” Assink says. “They have deeper understanding of the amazing contributions made by the members of the party.”